Got My Horse

Understanding and Treating Colic in Horses: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding and Recognizing Colic in Horses: An Informative Guide

Horses are majestic creatures that require a significant amount of care to maintain their health. One common health issue that horse owners need to be aware of is colic.

Colic is a common term used to describe abdominal pain in horses, and it is one of the leading causes of premature death in horses. In this informative guide, we will discuss the causes, types, and treatments of colic in horses.

We will also explore how to recognize the symptoms and what preventive measures you can take to keep your horse healthy.

Causes of Colic in Horses

Colic in horses can be caused by various factors. Overeating, dehydration, moldy hay, and gas accumulation are some of the primary causes of colic.

  • Overeating, especially of grain or lush pasture grass, can overload the digestive system, resulting in colic.
  • Water is essential to keep the digestive system functioning properly, and when horses do not drink enough water, they become dehydrated, leading to colic.
  • When horses consume moldy hay, the toxins produced by the molds irritate their intestinal tract, leading to colic.
  • Gas accumulation can occur when there is a change in the horse’s diet, leading to an increase in fermentation in their gut, which can result in colic.

Types of Colic in Horses

Common Types of Colic

  1. Flatulent colic occurs when there is an excessive buildup of gas in the horse’s intestines.
  2. Simple obstruction colic occurs when there is a blockage in the horse’s intestine caused by feed, foreign objects, or parasites.
  3. Strangulating obstruction colic occurs when the blood supply to the horse’s intestine is reduced, causing tissue death and severe pain.
  4. Non-strangulating infarction colic occurs when a part of the horse’s intestine dies, often due to a lack of blood supply.
  5. Enteritis is inflammation of the small intestine, which can result in colic.
  6. Peritonitis is inflammation of the lining of the abdominal cavity, which can also cause colic.
  7. Ulceration colic is caused by ulcers in the horse’s stomach and intestines.
  8. Unexplained colic has no apparent cause.

Treatment for Horses Suffering from Colic

Treating colic in horses requires quick action and an understanding of the type of colic your horse is experiencing.

Treatment Options

  • For dehydration, electrolytes can be added to water to keep the horse hydrated.
  • Laxatives can help pass any blockages or obstruction in the horse’s gut.
  • Banamine can be used to reduce pain and inflammation, and a muscle relaxant can help reduce spasms in the horse’s colon.
  • In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove blockages or repair damage to the horse’s intestine. It is important to note that not all types of colic require surgery.

It is essential to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your horse.

Recognizing Symptoms of Colic in Horses

The symptoms of colic in horses can range from mild to severe. Early recognition of symptoms is critical for successful treatment.

Common Signs of Colic

  • Pawing the ground repeatedly
  • Turning their head and looking back at their flank
  • Curling the upper lip (flehming)
  • Arching the neck
  • Raising a rear leg
  • Kicking at the abdomen
  • Rolling from side to side
  • Excessive sweating
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Fainting
  • Dehydration
  • Stretching out while standing
  • Straining to defecate
  • Bloated bellies


In conclusion, colic is a common health problem in horses, and it is vital to recognize the symptoms and seek prompt treatment. Knowing the causes, types, and treatments of colic in horses can help you take preventive measures and keep your horse healthy.

Early intervention plays a significant role in the outcome of treating colic in horses. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice signs of colic in your horse, and follow their treatment plan to ensure your horse’s optimal recovery.

Treating Colic in Horses: Rehydration, Medications, and Surgery

Colic is a common health condition in horses, and it is essential to seek prompt treatment to ensure a successful recovery. The treatment approach for colic in horses will depend on the type and severity of colic.

In this article, we will discuss the different treatment options for colic in horses, including rehydration, medications, and surgery.

Rehydration and Clearing out the Intestine’s Contents

One of the first steps in treating colic in horses is to rehydrate and clear out the intestine’s contents.

  • Dehydration can lead to impaction in the horse’s gut, which can result in colic. Fluid replacement with electrolytes is often used to rehydrate the horse and to encourage water intake.
  • This can be achieved through oral rehydration solutions or intravenous fluids.
  • To clear out the intestine’s contents, veterinarians may use laxatives or enemas. These medications can help move the blockage through the digestive system and reduce the risk of impaction.
  • Hand-walking can also help stimulate the horse’s digestive system and encourage bowel movement.

Medications Used to Treat Colic

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Flunixin and Phenylbutazone are commonly used to control pain, reduce inflammation, and decrease fever in horses with colic. These medications are effective in treating both inflammation and pain caused by colic. However, it is essential to follow the veterinarian’s dosage and prescription, as excessive doses can cause adverse side effects.
  • Ultrasound examination is also used to identify impactions and other blockages in the horse’s intestine.
  • Intestinal lubricants such as mineral oil or liquid paraffin can be administered to help relieve obstructions or impactions caused by feed or sand.
  • Deworming medication is another option to treat colic in horses caused by parasites.
  • Say Whoa Gel Syringes can provide immediate relief to horses by coating their stomach and intestine with a soothing and protective gel.

Surgery for Colic Treatment

  • In severe cases of colic, surgery may be required to treat the underlying cause.
  • Exploratory celiotomy is a surgical procedure that involves making an incision in the horse’s abdominal wall to access the intestine. This method enables veterinarians to examine the abdomen and identify any obstructions or displaced intestines.
  • If necessary, severe obstructions may require the resection of necrotic intestines. Intraluminal obstructions such as foreign bodies have a high success rate when using surgery to treat colic.
  • Surgery is also a viable option when dealing with volvulus or displaced intestines.
  • Recovery time after surgery will depend on the extent of the surgery and the horse’s overall health. Veterinary monitoring is essential during this crucial period in the horse’s recovery.
  • While surgery is an effective colic treatment option, it is also expensive and is often considered a last resort. It is important to consult with the veterinarian to determine the best course of action to ensure that your horse receives the optimal treatment to improve their chances of survival.

First Aid for Colic in Horses

In emergencies, providing first aid is critical to prevent the horse’s condition from worsening while waiting for the veterinarian. Urgency is crucial in treating colic in horses, and the following first aid steps can be taken:

  • Bringing the horse to its feet and keeping it moving – this can help with pain relief and stimulate bowel movement.
  • Mineral oil treatment – this home remedy involves using a syringe or stomach tube to introduce a mixture of bran, mineral oil, salt, and water into the horse’s stomach.
  • Contacting the veterinarian – contact the vet as soon as possible, as they will be able to provide expert advice on how to proceed.

Depending on the severity of the colic, the veterinarian may prescribe a muscle relaxant and/or an enema to help alleviate the horse’s symptoms.


Colic can be a severe and life-threatening condition in horses. Rehydration and clearing out the intestine’s contents are the first steps in treating colic in horses.

The use of medications such as NSAIDs, intestinal lubricants, deworming medication, and Say Whoa Gel Syringes are effective options for treating colic. Surgery is a last resort, but it is an effective treatment for colic in severe cases. In emergencies, providing first aid can help alleviate symptoms until veterinary assistance is available. Contacting a veterinarian immediately and following their treatments is the key to ensuring the horse’s optimal recovery.

In summary, colic is a common and potentially life-threatening condition in horses that requires prompt and effective treatment. Rehydration, medications, and surgery are all viable options for treating colic in horses, depending on the type and severity of the condition. It is important to recognize the symptoms of colic early on and contact a veterinarian immediately for expert advice and assistance. The health and well-being of horses depend on their caregiver’s responsibility and awareness of their health.

Remember, early intervention plays a vital role in a successful recovery from colic.


Q: What is colic in horses?

A: Colic is a common term used to describe abdominal pain in horses, caused by various factors such as overeating, dehydration, moldy hay, and gas accumulation.

Q: What are the types of colic in horses?

A: Common types of colic in horses include flatulent, simple obstruction, strangulating obstruction, nonstrangulating infarction, enteritis, peritonitis, ulceration, and unexplained colic.

Q: What is the treatment for horses suffering from colic?

A: Treatment for colic in horses may include rehydration, electrolytes, laxatives, pain control medication such as Flunixin and Phenylbutazone, surgery, and more.

Q: How can horse owners recognize the symptoms of colic in horses?

A: Symptoms of colic in horses include pawing the ground repeatedly, turning head and looking back at flank, excessive sweating, and more.

Q: What should I do if I suspect my horse has colic?

A: Contact your veterinarian immediately for expert advice and assistance. In emergencies, provide first aid with urgency while waiting for veterinary assistance.

Popular Posts